Mayfair, 2001, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up. Entdecker, despite its poorly chosen and incomprehensible name, is another entertaining submission from Germany, apparently the land from which all new strategy games now spring. Entdecker is a game of colonial exploration. Players take turns exploring unknown territory in an attempt to establish settlements on unexplored islands. Each player declares how many new spaces they want to try to explore, each of which must be paid for in advance. Unknown, random squares are cheap, whereas specifically selected squares cost more. Each new square must be fitted next to the current location of your ship - matching up island borders and sea lanes. If a square cannot be matched up, it is forfeitted. If you end your exploration on a square that has a portion of an island on it, you may drop a scout, an outpost or a settlement on it (each costing progressively more money). If laying the square causes an island to be "completed", the island is then scored. The player with the most influence (based on what they've dropped there) gets the most "victory" points, and the second place player (if any) gets half that many points. Any scouts that were on the island are then moved to the jungle paths where they are used to try to secure produce tokens (a very abstract procedure that I won't try to explain here). Earning money to pay for exploration isn't a huge part of the strategy of the game. Basically if you ever run out of money you get to roll a die to get some more for free. You can also earn money when other players have to sail past your settlements. When all the squares on the board are filled with tiles the game is over and the player with the most victory points wins.
This game is fairly abstract, but despite that, pretty entertaining as well. The game pieces are gorgeous (as we've come to expect from Mayfair). The rules are simple to follow and the game is easy to get started playing. Like most recent German games, there is little opportunity for player interaction/conflict. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're feeling particularly bloodthirsty you might want to try something else. My only real complaint is with those goofy little huts that occupy the ends of the jungle paths. In order to make secret what kind of produce token is hiding at the end of each path, they have you hide it inside of these clumsy little huts that you build out of a couple of pieces of cardboard. Very inconvenient. They should have just drawn a picture of a hut on the board and given us one-sided tokens that could be set on the board face down! But that nit-pick aside, this is a fun game that I expect we'll be playing for years to come.